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Social Programs

Innovative initiatives to help most vulnerable groups

The Inter-American Development Bank has devoted 43 percent of its $46 billion active lending portfolio to social investments in Latin America and the Caribbean, thus exceeding the goals established the Bank’s governors for such operations. Another 19 percent of its portfolio supports the reform and modernization of the state in the region’s countries.

"Virtually two-thirds of Bank lending is focused on society and institutions," IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias said. "I believe that by far we are the multilateral institution with the largest volume of lending devoted to social sectors."

According to preliminary data, during 2000 the IDB approved over $1.8 billion* for social programs aimed at poverty reduction and equity promotion in Latin America and the Caribbean. For the seventh consecutive year, the IDB was the leading source of multilateral financing for economic and social development programs in the region, especially for the smallest and least developed countries.

Social program lending was concentrated in improving access to economic resources for the poor as well as strengthening social infrastructure in education, health, nutrition and urban development. Such operations in particular benefited minority groups, rural dwellers, women and children. It is estimated that more than one-third of the region’s population lives below the poverty line.

Most of the resources were channeled to investments benefiting the most vulnerable social groups, such as low-income and indigenous groups. According to preliminary estimates, social investments received $618 million; urban development, $685 million; education, $271 million; water and sanitation, $145 million; and environment, $142 million.

Bank-supported program focus on strategies to promote socio-economic welfare and increasingly include measures to prevent social problems as well as measures to mitigate their consequences, particularly in the cases of crises or natural disasters. These measures are supported with lending and technical cooperation.

During 2000, the IDB supported measures to counter the destruction wreaked by earthquakes in El Salvador and continued presiding the Consultative Group for Central America meetings of international donors. These meetings aimed at channeling resources toward reconstruction and transformation after hurricane Mitch and to support social programs.

Broad-based participation by social sectors in policy formulation and the formation of national consensus is a key process that the IDB is stimulating in the region and that has made significative advances in Honduran education in 2000.

Last year the Bank created the Social Equity Forum to faster a high-level debate on equity and economic policies and to promote social policies that have been proven to be successful.

Other programs have supported housing and municipal development, prevention of social and domestic violence and improvements in education and health. Together with other international organizations, the Bank launched a Joint Agenda for Health in the Americas and an Inter-American Coalition for the Prevention of Violence.

The IDB’s youth initiative last year implemented an active program comprising training, broadening of its network of regional youth leaders, support for policy formulation and collaboration among organizations to promote the participation of young people.

A significative number of projects, notably the IDB’s women leadership program, broadened women’s participation in economic, social and political activities. A dialogue between women politicians and a public opinion poll for which the Bank, together with the Inter-American Dialogue, hired the Gallup Organization, promoted debate on the challenges and opportunities of the new century.

For the micro, small and medium enterprise sector the Bank has approved over the last decade financing exceeding $5 billion.

In 2000, the Multilateral Investment Fund, an autonomous fund managed by the IDB, approved operations totaling $115 million to support 78 projects that promoted private sector growth and small and medium enterprise development. MIF programs aim at strengthening microfinancing institutions, offering training and technical support to small-scale entrepreneurs and support regulatory and legal reforms to promote this sector’s development. The MIF assigns priority to programs with a high social content, such as sanitation, environmental protection, biodiversity and sustainable energy.

The Bank supports the region’s efforts to promote social inclusion and an enhanced consciousness of ethnic and racial problems. These issues will be analyzed by the United Nations Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that will take place in South Africa in August 2001.

More Information
* All statistics on Bank operations during 2000 are provisional. Final data will be included in the Annual Report 2000.

For additional information on the IDB’s social programs please see here or contact the Social Development Division of the Sustainable Development Department under Mayra Buvinic, tele phone (202) 623-3533, fax (202) 623-1576, or e-mail: sds/soc@iadb.org

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